Do I have to eat a perfect diet to breastfeed?

Do I have to eat a perfect diet to breastfeed? - Transcript

If you are a new mother of course it’s a good rule of thumb to eat a variety of nutritious foods, not just to keep up your energy levels but also for your general health – but I want to assure you that as a breastfeeding mother your body is highly efficient at providing a good quality milk for your baby.

A really common myth is that breastfeeding mothers need to eat special foods or certainly a perfect diet in order to provide that really good quality milk for the baby, and some mothers have actually given up breastfeeding because they thought they couldn’t sustain the type of perfection. But it’s really encouraging to know that there are no special foods that need to be eaten – and even the dietary restrictions that are given in pregnancy don’t apply when you’re breastfeeding. There are no foods that are off limits. The good news is that your body is actually really good at using nutrients and energy from not only the foods that you eat in your diet but also from stores that are laid down in your body during pregnancy.

I find it really interesting to discover that across cultures there are so many myths and particular myths according to each country. So some countries will say ‘Oh you’re not allowed to eat this and that’ and yet in another country all of their breastfeeding mothers will eat that unreservedly and be fine with breastfeeding. So for instance in Italy there is a myth that would say that garlic and cauliflower shouldn’t be eaten. And yet in India those things will be eaten without reserve. So it’s just interesting to look right across the cultures and they’re just one little example.

So generally anything that you’re happy eating is OK to eat when you’re breastfeeding your baby, but what I would say is that if you find that every time you eat for instance, say a curry – I’m just thinking of something random here. If every time you ate that you found that your baby maybe was a bit gassy or something like that, it might be good to omit that for a time, just to see if that is actually a cause and effect. But there’s no way of really knowing for sure, but there is nothing initially off the menu.

It’s also really reassuring to know that you don’t have to eat a certain amount of food to make a good quality milk for your baby unless you’re on a really restricted diet maybe of 1800 calories or less. If you do want to go on a diet, it’s good to look at the organizations that can help you to slim healthily and take your needs as a breastfeeding mother into consideration. But the general rule is to eat to hunger, and no need to count calories – and another positive point is that your body actually uses up an extra 500 calories per day just to make the milk. Now I’m not suggesting that you go out and buy a couple of extra chocolate bars every single day just to compensate for that, but it stands to reason if you’re eating normally, as you would, just to hunger, then you’re likely to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster than you would if you weren’t breastfeeding. So that’s a really positive thing.

So just to conclude, yes, it’s a great idea to eat a variety of nutritious foods, and I hope you do as a breastfeeding mother – you need all of the energy that you can get for general health of course, but know that irrespective of that, your body is an excellent machine at being able to make a really good quality and nutritious food for your baby.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020

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